Jan. 29 2021 06:00 AM

If you use these tips in the off-season, the work you do now will pay off in the year to come.

Just because your business slows down in the offseason doesn’t mean your marketing should slow down too. Marketing in the offseason creates a top-of-mind awareness of your company so that when your customer is ready to buy, they think of you first. If you wait until spring to market your business because you assume that is when buying decisions are being made, you’re probably already too late.

Here are five tips to keep your marketing working to grow your business all year long.

1. Email marketing. Every time you onboard a new customer, you gather email addresses as you record their contact information. The offseason is the time to begin turning those email addresses into assets that work in your favor. Create an email marketing campaign, launch a digital newsletter and send special offers for booking services ahead of the spring rush. If you have a blog or are just starting one, send an email to your customers asking them to subscribe. Use that email list to let your customers know you’re on social media. Provide links to your accounts and ask them to follow you.

2. Social media. You’ve been taking photos all year long of your best projects, right? Turn those photos into social media posts. In the offseason, folks staring out their windows at snow will relish some scenes of green grass and trees with foliage. If you don’t already have Facebook, Instagram and Houzz accounts, create them now in the offseason. Research which hashtags are popular in our industry and use them. A few to start with are: #landscaping, #backyarddesign, #irrigationsystem. Be sure to tag your location so local customers can find you.

3. Think beyond traditional holidays. Everyone sends Christmas cards (print or e-cards) or holiday gifts — and you should too. But don’t just think about the traditional holidays. Build promotions around other significant dates, especially ones that tie into landscaping and irrigation. Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) is the perfect time to remind your customers that spring is coming and they’ll need your services soon. Use Groundhog Day to suggest they get on the calendar now, offer discounts or simply use it as one more marketing touchpoint. Earth Day (Apr. 22) provides another option to get your clients thinking about landscaping, especially if your company has a sustainability focus.

4. Branded trinkets. Consider sending your customers something beyond the typical (and expensive) hat or T-shirt. Smaller trinkets emblazoned with your logo such as pens, tote bags or coffee mugs are good choices. My favorite idea with a landscape connection is flower seed packets with your company logo printed on them. You can find them online priced at less than $2 each depending on how many you order, and they’re easy to mail. I’ve seen some that are self-contained postcards/seed packets in one. How cool is that? Imagine your customer’s reaction when they receive a packet of seeds in the mail on a dark winter day. It’s like sending hope with a postage stamp.

5. Create a marketing plan. In peak season, when you’re busy serving customers and running crews, the last thing you have time to deal with is an advertising sales rep. Take the time now to create a marketing plan for the year. Contact your local media outlets to get pricing on ads. Develop a budget. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that small businesses with annual revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7% to 8% of their revenue on marketing. When you have a plan and a budget in place, you’ll be less likely to feel pressured to make marketing decisions when your focus is on other parts of your business.

If you use these tips in the off-season, the work you do now will pay off in the year to come.

Stacie Zinn Roberts is an award-winning writer, marketing expert and founder of What’s Your Avocado? Marketing and Public Relations, Mount Vernon, Washington, which specializes in green industry marketing. She can be reached at stacie@whatsyouravocado.com.